Joyce Thomas

Assistant Professor of Industrial Design

Joyce Thomas

School of Industrial + Graphic Design

Bachelor of Industrial Design, Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design, Master of Industrial Design

211 Wallace Hall Phone: (334) 844-4340


Executive Masters of Product Design & Development, Northwestern University MFA with Highest Honors, Industrial Design, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (ILLINOIS)
BFA with High Honors, Industrial / Environmental Design, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), Rochester, New York

Joyce Thomas, MFA, IDSA has a passion to empower people through good design. She employs the user as an active participant in the designing process, incorporating human-centered design, design ethnography, and empathic research strategies. In her professional career of more than 30 years she has designed innovative products for Electrolux, Shark, Bosch, Jarden Consumer Solutions, Sunbeam, Crock-Pot, and others, and has been awarded 59 US and international patents. Thomas is an assistant professor of industrial design at Auburn University, where she teaches design thinking, design research, computer aided design and industrial design studio courses. Prior to joining Auburn in fall 2018, she taught for 12 years in the ID program at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Design problems are often casually defined, which requires the ability to listen with presence, to hear what is said (and not said), to make deep enquiries, to observe, and to find and define the problem. Designing involves asking questions, discovering and creating many solutions, evaluating them and arriving at the most preferred solution. Design students need to uncover things that include: having an overview of previously designed things that are similar; having deep and rich understandings of the focused user group; and having contextual knowledge related to the place/s and space/s the designed object will be used (e.g., city, country, culture, social situation). Students may have a pre-conceived idea about what industrial design is. It is part of my job as an experienced designer to get them to understand how human-centered research, design thinking, and empathy should guide and influence their design.

Interest areas in research and practice:
Design Thinking, Empathic Design Research Strategies, New Product Development Process, Entrepreneurship